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Make a Healthy Splash: Share the Fun, Not the Germs

Friday, May 20, 2016

Think Healthy. Swim Healthy. Be Healthy.

It’s the time of year to beat the heat by visiting lakes, rivers, pools and splash pads. As Oklahomans gear up for a summer of fun in the water, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) encourages everyone to follow healthy swimming behaviors to prevent spreading diseases and to prevent families from becoming sick. 

The week before Memorial Day (May 23-29) has been designated nationally as National Healthy and Safe Swimming Week. Healthy swimming behaviors can prevent recreational water illnesses (RWIs) such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, norovirus, and E. coli. RWIs are caused by swallowing or having contact with organisms in contaminated water in swimming pools, hot tubs, water parks, water play areas, fountains, lakes or rivers. These illnesses can also be caused by breathing in mists or aerosols from contaminated water. Germs causing these illnesses can result in a variety of symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, skin rash and wound infections. RWIs can be prevented with simple precautions.

Healthy swimming behaviors include the following:

  1. Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.
  2. Shower before you get in the water.
  3. Don’t pee or poop in the water.
  4. Don’t swallow the water.  Avoid getting water in your mouth.
  5. Every hour – everyone out.
    • Take kids on bathroom breaks.
    • Check diapers, and change them in a bathroom or diaper-changing area—not poolside—to keep germs away from the pool.
    • Wash hands with soap and water after changing diapers and using toilet.
  6. Diapered children:
    • Children who are not yet toilet-trained should wear swim diapers in the pool and lake.
    • Swim diapers & swim pants are not a substitute for frequent diaper changing and bathroom breaks. Check swim diapers and swim pants frequently.
    • Wash your child thoroughly with soap and water before swimming, especially the diapered area.
  7. Check the free chlorine level and pH before getting into the water.
    • Pools:  Proper free chlorine levels (1-3 mg/L or parts per million [ppm] and pH (7.2-7.8) levels maximize germ-killing power.
    • Hot tubs/spas:  Proper disinfectant level (chlorine [2-4 parts per million] or bromine [4-6 ppm] and pH (7.2-7.8) maximize germ-killing power.
    • Swimming in a well maintained swimming pool will reduce your likelihood of developing an illness as many of the germs are killed by chlorine.
    • Avoid swimming in a pool that has cloudy or off-colored water. If you cannot see the main bottom drain, stay out of the pool.

Last year, harmful algal blooms (HAB) continued to be present in Oklahoma lakes. HABs can produce toxins that result in illness in humans and animals. Direct contact with water that has these blooms can result in a skin rash; eye, ear and throat irritation; asthma-like symptoms; diarrhea, vomiting or abdominal cramps. Do not swim or participate in other recreational activities where the water is murky or blue, bright green, red, or brown algae mats appear, or if the water has an unpleasant odor.

For more information regarding waterborne diseases and prevention, please visit: http://www.ok.gov/health/Disease,_Prevention,_Preparedness/Acute_Disease_Service/Disease_Information/Waterborne_Diseases/index.html.

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